ATLANTA -- Left-handed reliever Ian Thomas was the odd man out when the Braves activated Gavin Floyd from the disabled list on Sunday, but the development of the southpaw's slider could earn him a return trip to the Majors.
Thomas, whose departure left Luis Avilan as the lone left-hander in Atlanta's bullpen, debuted the new pitch in a start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday night. He threw it several times as he struck out five in three perfect innings.
"He threw four or five sliders to both sides, and they were really, really good," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It had some depth."
When the Braves decided to option Thomas, Gonzalez said they did so because they viewed him as "the guy who needs the most work." By taking on a starting role, Thomas has more game situations during which he can work on his pitches.
"It's just more repetitions," Thomas said Sunday. "I'm able to throw the slider more in an appearance as a starter than as a reliever. As a starter, I'll be getting a certain pitch count. I'll be able to throw pitches in a game as opposed to coming in an appearance and facing a lefty here, a lefty there."
Thomas previously tried to throw the slider in high school and during his days at Virginia Commonwealth University, but he ultimately decided to set it aside because he did not master "throwing it the right way," and to avoid injury.
After a stellar spring, Thomas made his MLB debut on Opening Day in Milwaukee, and compiled 4.26 ERA in 10 relief appearances for Atlanta. If he can fine-tune his repertoire the way the Braves hope, Thomas may get a chance to add to those numbers in 2014.
"The big word is 'trust,' and I want them to trust me," Thomas said Sunday. "When that time comes to call down on the farm to bring me back, I'll be ready."
Braves weigh rotation options, but Floyd has spot
ATLANTA -- Gavin Floyd's role with the Braves was in a state of flux when the club activated him from the disabled list on Sunday. Three days and an impressive start later, Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez wants to keep the right-hander in the rotation.
"He's one guy that would not go to the bullpen, I don't think, just because of the Tommy John [surgery]," Gonzalez said. "We all know how the bullpen thing is. You get up, you get down, you go in, you don't go in. You've got to warm up in 50 [games], and I don't want to do that to him."
Gonzalez first hinted at the possibility of keeping Floyd in the starting rotation following Tuesday night's 2-1 win over the Cardinals, when he said he couldn't wait to see Floyd throw again in five to six days, but the Braves have yet to set a date for Floyd's next start.
Julio Teheran will start Friday's game against the Cubs, Ervin Santana will return from a bruised right thumb to pitch on Saturday and Alex Wood will take the hill in Sunday's series finale.
"We have options, obviously," Gonzalez said. "We could go a couple of different directions. ... We've got to sit down and talk about it."
Gonzalez reiterated Wednesday that he will not use a six-man rotation, and Wood is the most likely candidate to move to the bullpen to make room for Floyd. The Braves would like to keep Wood on an innings limit during his first full season in the Majors.
The lefty is only two years removed from his days at the University of Georgia, and he threw a combined 139 2/3 innings last season while splitting time between Atlanta, Triple-A Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi.
Wood, whose limit would likely fall somewhere between 170-180 innings, has thrown 45 frames in his first seven starts this season. Should Wood switch to relief, he would join Luis Avilan as the only left-handers in the bullpen.
Ervin experiences no issues with thumb
ATLANTA -- Right-hander Ervin Santana threw a side session on Wednesday and experienced no issues with the bruised right thumb that kept him from making his most recent scheduled start on Tuesday night against the Cardinals.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez heard Santana's session went well and said the right-hander will start on Saturday against the Cubs.
"Very good, there were no problems," Santana said. "I threw every pitch and everything was good. ... I don't feel anything today."
Santana, who had a wrap on his thumb Sunday, was no longer wearing it on Tuesday. He first suffered the injury when Reds pitcher Homer Bailey jammed him with an inside pitch on April 25, and he experienced swelling in his most recent start on May 1.
No particular pitch bothered Santana's thumb more than the others, as the main issue resulted from gripping the ball.
"That's part of the game," Santana said. "Just next time, I have to get treatment earlier, so I know it's part of the game, and I just have to be prepared for that."
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.